Olympics: It’s a Magical Golden Moment For Canadian Maggie MacNeil in 100 Butterfly

maggie macneil, olympics, Jul 26, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Margaret Macneil (CAN) reacts after winning the women's 100m butterfly final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
GOLDEN MOMENT: The moment Maggie MacNeil won Olympic gold in the women's 100m butterfly. Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

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Olympics: It’s a Magical Golden Moment For Canadian Maggie MacNeil in 100 Butterfly

It took a few moments to sink in but World and Pan Pac champion Maggie MacNeil has today been crowned the Olympic champion, winning Canada’s first swimming gold of the Tokyo Games with a stunning 100m butterfly victory at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

The 21-year-old, who had dreamed of becoming an Olympian since her first swim meet in 2008 and found out about her selection via Zoom in 2021, stormed home down the second lap to snatch that elusive gold in an Americas record time of 55.59.

Jul 24, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Margaret Macneil (CAN) during the women's 100m butterfly heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network

FLYING GOLD: The style  of an Olympic champion. Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher — USA Today Sports

The first Canadian to win the 100m butterfly since it was first swum in Melbourne in 1956.

Adding the gold to her silver medal on the opening day in the 4x100m freestyle relay alongside her now fellow Olympic champion, Penny Oleksiak, the 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the 100m freestyle and silver medallist in this event four years ago.

But today it was MacNeil’s time to shine and in an epic race – with a stunning performance for the London Ontario native, who was born in Jiujiang, in China’s Jiangxi Province, before being adopted and moving to Canada and who is now a star at the University of Michigan, swimming program.

MacNeill touched the wall just 0.05 ahead of a brave showing from China’s Zhang Yufei (55.64) with Australia’s “medal machine” Emma McKeon setting a new Oceania and Australian record of 55.72 for the bronze. Sweden’s defending champion and world record holder, Sarah Sjostrom, finished seventh in 56.91 – an extraordinary effort just to be in the final after fracturing her elbow earlier in the year.

Swimming without contact lenses MacNeil turned to the scoreboard, focusing on the names and the places, with a look of disbelief when she saw she was the new Olympic champion.

“I like to check the scoreboard pretty quickly. But it’s hard just because I don’t have contacts (contact lenses),” she said of her delayed reaction.

“It does take me a minute to read the scoreboard, so I was just trying to squint and see where I came.

“I knew quicker at the (2019) Worlds (that I had won) because I had Sarah Sjostrom next to me there.

“I heard my name being called, but it wasn’t until I turned around and saw the result that I realised I had won.”

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Kayla Sanchez, Margaret Macneil and Rebecca Smith (CAN) celebrate after placing second during the women's 4x100m freestyle relay final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network

SILVER LINING: The first three members of the Canadian women’s 400 free relay, from left, Rebecca Smith, Kayla Sanchez and Maggie MacNeil; Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Network

And how did she do it?

“I just put my head down and tried to get to the wall as fast as possible and I’m really glad it all came together,” MacNeill said.

“I could hardly see anyone on the far side of the pool, which I think helped me a lot, because I was able to just focus on my own race,”

MacNeil was seventh at the 50m mark, splitting 26.50, keeping her cool and keeping something in the bag for a power-packed last lap, the gold medal lap and she timed it to perfection, bringing it home in 29.09.

And on being an Olympic champion?

“It’s crazy. I’m trying to process what happened yesterday with the relay, because that was so incredible,” she said.

 

“And I still don’t think I’ve realised the whole world champion thing, so this will take a while to get used to.”

Zhang had led through the 50m mark in 25.71 and just couldn’t hang on, with MacNeill doing her best work over the final few metres.

McKeon, fresh from her gold medal part in Australia’s gold-medal winning world record 4x100m freestyle relay, also flew home to snatch her second medal of the Games.

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Canada team members Kayla Sanchez, Margaret Macneil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak with their silver medals during the medals ceremony for the women's 4x100m freestyle relay during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network

TURNING SILVER INTO GOLD: Canada’s 400 free relay silver medallists (from left) Penny Oleksiak, Rebecca Smith, Maggie MacNeil and Kayla Sanchez show off their silver medals; Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Network

 

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Lee Kovalskyj

    Great article on Maggie MacNeil’s gold in the 100 fly, and the silver she and her team-mates (Sanchez, Smith, and Oleksiak) won the previous day in the 4X100 relay. Although Maggie lives in London, Ontario, and swims for Canada, the fact that she’s also been competing for the University of Michigan means she has friends and fans on both sides of the border.

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